A senior mother being stubborn during a conversation with her daughter about the idea of moving into a senior living community

Aging parents often have difficulty adapting to changes in their physical and mental abilities. As children, we are the most important people in our aging parents’ lives. We can be a source of comfort, companionship, and protection for them.  

When aging parents are stubborn or resist help from their children, it can create conflict within a family. It’s understandable that aging parents don’t want to lose their independent living lifestyle. The best approach is to provide them with resources and let them decide. 

Let’s look at some common behaviors that stubborn aging parents exhibit and tips on understanding and changing them when they arise.

Common Behaviors of Aging Parents

Aging is a natural process and will affect all of us. One-in-ten adult children between the ages of 40 and 50 provide care for a parent 65 years and older. But when aging parents refuse help or advice from their adult children, it can be challenging. 

These behaviors may stem from them not being prepared, not wanting to lose their independence, or from cognitive impairment

  • They refuse to listen: stubborn aging parents ignore you and your point of view as they feel threatened and afraid of losing their independence. 
  • They are irrational: stubborn aging parents do things they shouldn’t even when it can cause them harm. An example of this is driving when they are visually impaired. 
  • They refuse to accept help: stubborn aging parents deny their need for help or medication despite seeing a doctor. They also refuse help with activities of daily living (ADL) and sometimes refuse to communicate in any form.

These behaviors can lead to frustration, anger, and feelings of desperation and helplessness in adult children. It is also fundamental to recognize that aging parents have the same feelings. 

The intent of their behavior isn’t to hurt you. The stubborn behavior comes from a power struggle. To maintain or hold on to a way of thinking without questioning that. 

A daughter trying to have a conversation with her senior mother that looks completely disinterested

Tips on How to Help Stubborn Aging Parents Understand

Over 77% of children reported parental behaviors attributed to stubbornness. It’s easy to lose patience with aging parents when all they want is independence, and all you want is their safety. 

The majority of the behaviors are related to the complex nature of aging and associated conditions. With more adult children becoming caregivers of aging parents, know that there are ways to help you and them through the process.

The Root of Their Stubbornness

Understanding the reason behind their behavior will help you better manage the situation. Since aging is not the only factor, you can determine if stubbornness is out of habit, a way to maintain independence or something more serious like depression or confusion. 

By listening to and acknowledging their needs and fears, you can understand them better, reason with them, and even find a solution. It’s hard but sometimes necessary to put your emotions aside to get through to them. 

Follow up on Their Health

An aging parent with stubborn behavior is difficult, but stubbornness can also result from changes in medication or a sign of early neurological disorders such as dementia and Alzheimer’s. About one-third of people over 85 years show signs of Alzheimer’s. 

Signs of a neurological disorder include memory loss, being forgetful, withdrawal from family and friends, losing track of time, and struggling with everyday tasks. Ask your loved one’s doctor if they have functional needs and would benefit from assisted living services.

Treat Them as Adults

It’s easy to switch the tables and want to parent your aging parents. Regardless of their age, they are adults. If they can make their decisions and are willing to accept the consequences, it is out of your control. 

The best approach adult children can take is accepting aging parents for who they are and what decisions they make, regardless of how they may impact your life. Openly discuss your concern for their safety and that you only want the best care for them, and leave the ball in their court. 

Express Your Feelings

Dealing with stubborn aging parents can leave you exhausted and overwhelmed with emotions. Express not vent how you feel when they refuse help with empathy. 

Confide with other family members, friends, online support groups, and a therapist. Speak to their doctor about your concerns. Sometimes aging parents listen to authority figures over their adult children. 

Accepting Help

Taking care of aging parents while attending to your family can feel like a tricky balance. Getting them on board with accepting help with the right approach can lead to better relationships and quality of life. 

Contact The Villages of Farragut to learn more about how they can create that perfect balance between independence and support for your aging parents.